Temporary Online File Storage – Here Today & (Maybe) Gone Tomorrow

Once upon a time there was email. It was a handy way of sending files: attach, click send, and it was done. However, over time files have become generally bigger. A few minutes of a video filmed with your iPhone will quickly amount to 100 Mbytes or more. So will that slick sales presentation you’ve been working on during your business trip, and that you now need to speed over to colleagues. The problem is that files of this size now choke your email application. With email limits still often around the 25 Mbytes limit, you need another solution.

This File Will Self-Destruct in 48 Hours

Do you remember the episodes from ‘Mission Impossible’ with that wonderful catchphrase at the beginning: “This tape will self-destruct in five seconds”? Well, now the Internet version is available! Temporary file storage services let you upload your file of several hundred Mbytes, without restrictions on file format or the need to open an account. You can then send a link (by email for example) to that upload to another person to click on and download your file. You can set the file to auto-delete immediately after download. Alternatively, it will be automatically deleted for instance 48 hours afterwards.

King of the Temporary File Storage Space?

To understand how big the need for this kind of temporary information storage has become, consider Google.  The company has developed a technology of ‘containerization’ to start and stop Linux-based ‘containers’ – these are logical instances of files and application components that are only needed on a short term basis. Google uses these containers internally as a fast (as in a few seconds) way to ‘spin up’ what it needs, when it needs it. It creates about 2 billion (yes, you read that right) of these logical containers every week. If current temporary file storage providers go down the same route, we may see temporary apps becoming as easily available too.

Does Your Data Really Go Away Afterwards?

Sometimes you don’t want data to disappear, especially when it’s a matter of precious information and documents, and their back-ups. But at other times, you’d be happier knowing that there weren’t any copies left lying around. Temporary file storage providers reassure users by confirming that no trace of their data is retained after deletion, and that no further downloads can be made. However, security experts will tell you that once your information gets out into the cloud, you can never be 100% sure that it will won’t resurface somewhere at a later time. If this is a concern for you, you’ll either want to get contractual commitment from the provider about measures taken to protect and delete data (difficult when the service offered is free), or look for another solution.

Are There Other Options?

Some people or organizations are unlikely to use temporary online file storage because of security concerns. Strategically important files and customer or patient records for example go via another route, such as a secure virtual private network that is protected against outsider snooping.  Alternatively, a web browser like Opera offers a function that lets you share files directly from your own computer via a password-protected link that you give to others. At least in that case you won’t have to rely on an intermediary organization to delete any temporary copies of your files after use.